Episode 13 – What makes a Successful Restaurant with Eric Cacciatore

What makes a Restaurant Successful?  Listen as we talk Restaurant Success with Eric Cacciatore from Restaurant Unstoppable.  Eric is uniquely placed, having interviewed 200 of the United States most successful chefs and restaurant operators.  We talk about the critical factors that every Restaurant owner should be thinking about if they want to create success in their Restaurant and in their life.


We talk system, marketing, culture and leadership in this wide ranging podcast which will definitely have something for every Restaurant owner out there to find at least 1 great idea distilled from the experience of hundreds of restaurant owners.

Check out Eric’s website, Restaurant Unstoppable.  Check out his book list.  Eric has compiled a list of must read books for all Restaurant owners.

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Episode 13 – What makes a Successful Restaurant with Eric Cacciatore


James Eling: Hey, it’s James from Marketing for Restaurants and welcome to episode 13 of Secret Sauce, the restaurant marketing podcast. What makes a successful restaurant with Eric Cacciatore.

James: Hey everyone, welcome back. First up, really bit apology. Been super busy with work and we’ve had a lot of things going on at Marketing for Restaurants lately. I’ve been two weeks in South Australia, two weeks in Queensland. So, I’ve been traveling around working pretty hard. But the big news is that we’ve just moved into our brand-new offices. So, purpose-built office space, not too far from where we were in Seaford. But we’re just growing so quickly. We’re adding so many people on, helping a lot more restaurants with their marketing, so we needed to move to a much bigger office. So, now we’ve got a lot of space and we’re planning for the next three years’ worth of growth to be able to add, you know, probably another 15 or 20 people in here now. So, very exciting. We’ve got some beautiful office space. I’ll post some pictures up on the website of our new office. It really is amazing, really lucky to be in here. And it sets us up really well for the next, you know, I think five years for Marketing4Restaurants as we grow our team, we grow the family of restaurants who we help every week with marketing and building their businesses. And doing the important things in life, maybe spending a little bit of time out of the business maybe thinking about taking a holiday. They’re the big things.

You need to be able to recharge your batteries and you need to be able work for the amount of time that you work, the amount of effort that you put in, you need to be getting a good return on that. So, they’re the things that we’re going to be focusing on now, now that we’re moved in all settled. So, this week’s episode I’m really excited about. Eric Cacciatore, he runs the largest restaurant podcast in the United States and he is a really smart guy. He has done about 200 podcasts now, and he’s literally talking to the great restaurateurs in the United States. So, he is uniquely positioned to pick up on the trends about what it is that makes a restaurant successful. What are the common factors that he sees in the restaurant owners that interviews? And he’s interviewing some amazing people, so let’s crack on and listen to what Eric has got to say. Hey, Eric, welcome to Secret Sauce.

Eric: Thank you so much for having me, man, I’m pumped to be here.

James: No problem, I’m really excited to have you on the podcast because you’ve got a great website, your podcast is amazing, you interview some of the most interesting people in the restaurant industry. So, do you want to tell us a little bit about Restaurant Unstoppable?

Eric: Yeah, absolutely. So, I started Restaurant Unstoppable just because I couldn’t find it. Two and half years ago, three years ago – times going by fast – I think it was three years ago where I discovered podcasts. It was one of my professors, we were sitting in class and I was sitting there and I think it was the first day of class, he said, “Who in here listens to podcasts?” So, this is 2012, three years ago. And nobody raised their hand. And he looked around like this look of disbelief on his face. This is a night class, I should probably mention that because he steps outside, he goes outside of the classroom, he looks left, he looks right and you can seem him through like this little window through the door and he says – am I allowed to swear, James?

James: Yeah, sure. Go for it.

Eric: He says, you can see his lips, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” And then he comes back into the classroom and says, “You guys are missing out on a world of resource.” He’s like, “Your assignment is to go out and find something that you’re interested in, you’re passionate in, and search it and find a podcast and start listening.” So, at the time, I was kind of up against it, still am kind of up against it. We always are, but I wanted to learn more about how to become an entrepreneur and how to combine my passion for the hospitality industry with a world where I could do what I love but still be able to make enough to pay off my incredible debt from being a commercial pilot. Because you don’t make a lot of money by going to school. So, anyway, long story short, I found entrepreneur and fire, and it was an incredible podcast, Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income. And I just started learning about all these incredible ways you can be successful, but there wasn’t any resource out there for hospitality professionals, independently owned restaurant professionals. And I was like, every day, every week at least, I was looking for that person to come up with a podcast where you can listen to successful restaurant professionals to kind of find out what it takes to make it in this industry. And then one day a light bulb went off. I said, you know, “Instead of just waiting for it to happen, I can’t be the only person out there looking for this. I’ll just ask the questions.” And that’s kind of how Restaurant Unstoppable was born, it was just me wanting this resource and then, instead of waiting for it, I just decided to create it so I could get those answers.

James: Gold. It’s just so true, you know. It’s not out there so, rather than wait for it, you’ve just gone out and created it and it’s an amazing resource. And Pat Flynn, I listen to quite a bit of Pat’s work and he’s really good. A little bit of Entrepreneur on Fire, but yeah, mainly Pat.

Eric: Yeah, and there’s just so much information out there. It’s literally a search engine results away. Almost whatever you can think of, whatever you want is there. And I kind of wanted to create that for the restaurant professional. I mean, the restaurant industry’s notorious for being so far behind with technology and opportunities because we’re kind of in our own little bubble that I just, you know, I couldn’t wait anymore. It’s a huge opportunity and I’ve learned so much and we were just talking about this during the pre-interview. How we get these emails from people saying thank you, and it’s so uplifting to know that your hard work is being recognized and that’s the most rewarding part is just knowing that somebody out there is listening and it’s encouraging them, it’s motivating them, it’s inspiring them to take action. And not only can they get inspired and motivated but they also have the mentorship, the advice, the recommendations of these people who are incredibly successful in the restaurant industry. So, it’s so incredibly rewarding.

James: Exactly. And that’s one of the things that I love about it is getting that feedback. We get quite a bit on Facebook, just people just hitting us up saying, “Just listened to this episode,” in fact, one of them was someone mentioned one of the restaurant autopsies and they said, “I’ve been making that mistake, and I’m stopping doing that right now.” So, it was like, “Awesome,” you know. One person’s got the message, they understand. So, hopefully we’ve made a big difference in their life. Random question, do you know of any restaurant owners who run podcasts?

Eric: The name Kevin Spraggett comes to mine, Spraggett the dining group. I think he started one, I don’t know if it’s still going. I had Scott Steenrod on the show who’s the director of operations from Spraggett Dining I believe, or maybe that’s Garces [Group]. Man, I’ve talked to so many people. But I do think, I’m going on my own tangents right now, but I think there’s incredible opportunity from a marketing standpoint to create a podcast for restaurants. Because whether it’s just sharing your specials for the week, or just telling a story about one of your purveyors, there’s just so much opportunity there to connect with your brand ambassadors and to get the word out.

For that reason, that’s why blogs got so popular, but now with podcasts you don’t need to be sitting in front of a computer. You can be literally driving to the restaurant wondering what’s the special and then you’re going to have the executive chef being like, “Today’s specials, this is where we got it, this is why it’s special.” That can all happen, you can be educating your guests, which is a huge part of marketing, while they’re driving to your restaurant. So, I think that’s one thing that’s definitely worth exploring.

James: Yeah, it’d be interesting to see how it went, I think particularly in fine dining. It’s an amazing way to build a community and in fine dining those communities are worth quite a bit. I can’t think of anyone better placed to ask this question of, which is why I was so excited about you having on the show. Because you’ve spoken to so many successful restaurant owners, what are the common things that you find successful restaurant owners do or have, or what is it about them? What are the common ingredients in their secret sauce?

Eric: I’ll just kind of ramble through these quick then we’ll kind of dissect them. Obviously, the most common passion, work ethic, drive. Those are kind of no brainers and they come up often on the show. But the more common less obvious answers are things like a sensational appetite just to make other people happy. You’re not doing it for the money, you’re not doing it for the food, you’re doing it because the end result is that experience, that happiness. Being able to see the talents in others. The leveraging of the talent of others, not just seeing it but finding out where to put them in your business. Tapping into their higher needs. A clear understand of the definite purpose of your restaurant, not just to make food but what are those specific things that separate you from others and are you communicating that to your people. Not only your employees but those who you are serving. And then a ‘we’ mentality. Those are the most common, do you want me to start at the top and really dive into these?

James: Yeah, definitely, definitely.

Eric: Alright, so first of all, an appetite just to make other people happy. It’s obvious that you’re serving food but really, at the end of the day, you’re serving happiness, you’re serving the experience of just being able to bring people together to create that atmosphere where something can be celebrated or your guests can feel like they belong some place. People feed off that, being able to be successful at just providing a place. That’s what drives them, just seeing people smile like that’s the biggest reward for them. That’s one characteristic I think you need, you need to love making people happy. If you don’t have that, you can’t get into this industry. Do you want to add anything to that?

James: Yeah. No, no, no. I mean, I find it really interesting when you said, you know, you’re not serving food you’re serving happiness. Too many people they say, “We don’t make any money on the Parmesan, but we can’t put the price up,” and it’s like, it’s not about that. Why is it that people come here? Because if we just break it down to food then you’ve got so many competitors. If you break it down to something a little bit more unique, then you’ve got less competitors and if you’ve got less competitors that’s where the margin is. That enables you to run a profitable business. A lot of people struggle with that.

Eric: Yeah, for sure. Another thing I think, they think they have to be good at everything, right? Like, to get into this industry you have to be like a jack of all trades. But one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is it’s not necessarily that you have to be good at all of those things, you have to be able to see the talent and the strengths in other people and then surround yourself with the people that are strong where you need them. Whether it be marketing, or accounting, or front of house, or a cook, like an executive chef. You don’t need to be all those hats, you just need to have a strong enough purpose, something that resonates with enough people, that you attract that greatness to you and then you just plug people in the right seat. I think a great book, a great Jim Collins book, or Jim Sullivan, Jim something.

James: Jim Collins.

Eric: Yeah, but he talks about getting everybody on the bus but then getting them in the right seat. I think that’s one huge lesson that I’ve learned is that you don’t have to be great at everything, you just need to see the greatness in others, and then being able to bring it out of them is huge.

James: Definitely, definitely.

Eric: Yeah, and then I said that you need to feed the higher needs. Another awesome book, I have some other books to share later, but is Peak, which is this book that really talks to people to satisfy the higher needs of people really at the end of the day. And being able to create around the purpose, a why so to speak of, a greater purpose than just providing food. But we’re here to serve our community, we’re here to educate people about sustainability, about the broken food system, and we’re going to do it through our menu. If you can create a higher purpose that taps into people’s higher needs, so what I mean by higher needs, James, is basically picture a pyramid. At the bottom of the pyramid you have physiology, which is your most basic need. Food and shelter and warmth, those are the things we need to survive.

But in places like America or Australia, those needs are really easily met. You can get a job almost anywhere to meet those needs. You can move in with your parents and meet those needs. So, you really need to tap into the higher needs like being loved, and these are at the top of the pyramid, being loved, belonging to something, having a good self-esteem, knowing you’re growing personally, and then self-actualization when you know your purpose in life. So, if you can bring out those things in people, really get them around your purpose in your restaurant, you’re just going to have so much more success. Because people, at the end of the day, aren’t working for a pay check. I mean, you can get a pay check anywhere. What you can’t get is self-gratification, self-fulfillment and gratification. It’s those people who own restaurants that tap into those higher needs and make people feel like they’re just being satisfied fully that are so successful.

James: Yeah, so that’s Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, isn’t it?

Eric: Yes, exactly, you got it.

James: Yup. And it’s interesting because it’s been around for a long time, and I see it in our business and I see it in other people, you know, really successful business owners really work that theory. Because I just think it works. It’s not about a pay check, it’s got to be more than a pay check because you can get a pay check anywhere, exactly.

Eric: Exactly, yeah. And I also mentioned being able to clearly communicate that purpose. It’s one thing to know yourself why you’re showing up to work every day, but being able to clearly communicate this to the people – not just to your employees but to your customers – why you exist. And I think the last thing I mentioned was that ‘we’ mentality, and not making it about you but making it about everyone. Giving credit where credit’s due, and knowing that you can accomplish anything in life so long as you don’t mind who gets the credit. I can’t remember who said that, I think it was Octavio Mantilla, a past guest, who’s the man behind the operations of Besh, which is a huge restaurant group which started out of Louisiana in the [United] States. But it’s just that mentality that, like, if you don’t mind who gets the credit, if you’re not looking to just get credit all the time and you make it about ‘us’ not about ‘me’, you can really accomplish anything.

James: I find that amazing how people get caught up on that. But if you give credit to people, it’s free and you can just see them, they get so excited about that. They want to do more and yet so many people aren’t prepared to publicly give credit to the good work that gets done in their organizations. And I think that’s a real shame.

Eric: Absolutely.

James: So, what big mistakes have you seen that people make?

Eric: This is one of my biggest failures. When I’m talking on the show I ask people, “Tell me about a time you fell on your ass hard?” We’ve all been there, we’ve all made a mistake. And I think this is probably one of the questions that holds the most weight by far. No matter what the answer is, it usually works back to not having solid processes, procedures, and systems, protocols. Things where essentially what happens when you put these things in place, processes and procedures, is you’re creating a business that’s dependent on those systems and not dependent on people. So, when you create a business that’s dependent on people, there’s such a high turnover rate in a restaurant industry that you’re constantly just scrambling and rushing to get people trained.

Or, you’re there because you’re the only person that has a freakin’ clue of what’s going on. Basically, the business becomes dependent on you. So, this is good when you have one location, but what happens when you have two locations? Now that one person, you the owner, has to get split up between two locations and it’s just so much for any one person to handle. So, if you create these systems and processes and procedures, and literally create a funnel. Think of it as a funnel where you put people a the top and the systems and the processes are the funnel, and you just put them into the system and they all come out the end the same way every time. And you create those system dependent operations, then you can literally just start creating more and more different concepts.

You don’t have to do a franchise or a chain, but you don’t have to be there all the time. Like, the answers they vary, like, “I started a new restaurant and our other restaurant started to fall apart because I couldn’t be there.” It’s because there wasn’t any structure. So, that’s probably the most common failure is becoming overwhelmed, becoming stressed out, things starting to fall apart when you try to expand because you just don’t have those solid systems, like operations manuals and handbooks are so crucial.

James: And it’s interesting, I was talking to a restaurant owner in Perth in Western Australia and he said, “The weird thing is, I’ve got three restaurants. One of them’s really good, it’s the one that I’m in. Then one of the other ones will fall over and I’ll go there and fix it up, and the one that I was just in it goes back.” And I think the two things that he was lacking was one, you know, a strong culture where people wanted to do the right thing, and two, the systems and procedures so that people were able to do the right thing. You know, because if people want to do the right thing but don’t know how to do the right thing, they’re not going to do the right thing.

Eric: Yeah.

James: Yeah, it’s a big problem. Because I see the number of hours that restaurant owners work as being the biggest problem in the restaurant industry.

Eric: For sure, and just the kind of, to tap onto what you just said, I recently had Roody Mic, who is more than a career coach, like a personal growth coach but he’s also a restaurant consultant. And he talked about, “The number one piece of advice that I could give you to be successful in this industry is to paint a clear picture of what professional looks like.” Like you said, like people want to know what a job done right looks like. And you have to have that committed to writing, because what’s going to happen is different concepts of what perfect looked like, like, eventually there’s going to be a division or a split of what jobs look like when they’re done right and you have different people giving false information. You need that core, that thing to always come back to where it clearly spells everything out, so everyone’s on the same page of what perfection looks like.

James: Absolutely, and in a good restaurant I think you can see that, it’s up on the wall. There’s a picture of, “This is what the steak looks like, this is what the burger looks like, this is the ingredients list.”

Eric: Yeah. It seems like overkill but it’s so necessary unless you want to keep on repeating yourself.

James: Absolutely, absolutely.

Eric: You want me to go to the next point that I had in mind?

James: Yeah, yeah, please.

Eric: Alright, cool. So, many times people, when they start to open a restaurant when they go to open a restaurant, they – I mean, we’re dreamers, right? We’re entrepreneurs, we have this huge vision of what we want and we go for it right out of the gates. But it’s not sustainable. There’s so much overhead the bigger you get, and you have to have so many people coming in every day to be able to maintain, to keep the engine going. So, one thing I’ve noticed is that successful people, they don’t get there overnight, they start very small and they scale and they grow over time. And they have, over time they just they grow those brand ambassadors and that customer base and it blossoms with time. I think so many people look at these successful individuals and they go, “I want that.” But that doesn’t happen right away, you know, you have to put years and just blood, sweat, and tears into that grand scheme. And so, a big failure is just trying to go too big too soon, that’s the biggest way to summarize it.

James: Yeah, and I think people look at people and say, “Wow, they’re an overnight success,” and the funny thing is it took them 10 years to be that overnight success.

Eric: Yeah, for sure. And I mean, there’s so many ways today with technology, information’s out there but it’s easier and easier to get the means to be able to grow. You can literally start as a pop-up, which is essentially getting a concept and going to another person’s restaurant when they’re closed and do a quick pop-up restaurant where you serve people in another space. That’s one way to get your brand up, and there’s just so many different ways to start small and grow in time. To test a product or a concept, a minimal viable product where you don’t know if it’s going to work but you can put it out there and get feedback and constantly change. But don’t start with a two-million-dollar operation that you need to make such and such money every month to be able to pay the bills to keep it going. That’s ludicrous. And then there’s one more thing I want to mention in this topic of like what big mistakes are, and I think I had, I’ve spoken about it, it’s just escaped my mind. My mind’s always all over the place. It’s when people do get to that point, when they do reach their dream restaurant. They did everything right and they get to the top of their community.

They are the restaurant to go-to. They get to that and be happy. They get comfortable in their spot up top, and you have to constantly be learning and sharpening the saw, I think is one of those seven habits of how to be effective people. You can’t get fat, dumb, and happy. You really just have to know that, “If I don’t keep pushing, if I don’t keep expanding, if I don’t keep fresh, then there’s going to be some shark on my heels who’s looking to take that number one spot.” And we kind of talked about this, again, during the pre-show, right? When those new people want to open up a restaurant they have a clean slate, no bad habits right?

James: Exactly.

Eric: And then people who get rid of the old habits to develop new habits to stay on top.

James: Time and time and time again, we see people who it’s a lot harder working with some restaurant owners who’ve had a restaurant for 20 years because they’ve been running a restaurant for 20 years.

Eric: Yeah.

James: And they think that, you know, they know how to run a restaurant and yet technology is changing everything.

Eric: It’s a different market place, man, it’s a different world out there.

James: I gave a presentation to entrepreneurs last month and the whole presentation was that the biggest change that we are seeing is the rate of change that we are seeing is changing. Change is getting quicker and quicker and quicker, and there’s a bit advantage for people who come in today and they go, “Yeah, so this is going to be my Facebook strategy.” They build their business around what they think they can do out of Facebook because that wasn’t around, it wasn’t a big thing five years ago. And restaurant owners aren’t picking up on that. It’s marketing, it’s technology in the kitchen, accounting systems, pos systems, all those things are getting changed so rapidly.

Eric: One of the things I’ve learned, one of the ways to describe technology is an accelerator, right? Everyone, like, they look at technology like, “I don’t need all that stuff, I’ve been operating my business such and such time without that, why do I need it now?” It’s because you can operate so much more efficiently and effectively with these accelerators that allow you to get more done faster so you can have more face time, so you can constantly sharpen that sword and just get a little bit better. It’s that compounding effect, it’s like every little inch here and there all those little inches add up to miles in the long run. And that’s why you need to be willing to make those changes so you can have, like I said, those inches add to miles. And the people just don’t realize how much better you can do things today with these accelerators all over the place.

James: Across the board, that’s the thing. Finding staff, the way that you find staff is changing everything. The way that you find produce, I think it’s exciting. I think it’s really, really exciting.

Eric: It is, and it’s also extremely intimidating and scary.

James: Exactly.

Eric: Because you got to, like let’s be realistic, at the end up the day you still have to make the food, you still have that face time, you still have train, you still have to reprimand, you still have to do the scheduling. There’s so much shit going on and it’s like, how do you find the time to stay on top of all this? It’s super stressful, but that’s why systems, again, are so important because if you’re not there to do all the work all the time and you can free up your time by automating your business by putting these systems and processes in place. Where you don’t have to be the person doing everything. You can then go out and research, “What else can I do more efficiently? What else can buy me more time so I can just be more on top of it?”

James: I know in our business I think that one of the most powerful things that we’ve worked on is the system for writing a system, you know.

Eric: Yeah, for sure.

James: Because I struggle with it.

Eric: Actually, there is something out there, Sweet Process is an app. Owen was on my show, I’m not going to attempt to say his last name because every time I do, I brutalize it and I feel awful. I’m sorry if you’re listening to this Owen. Long story short, there’s an app called Sweet Process which helps you create systems. And you can go to restaurantunstoppable.com/sweetprocess and there’s a 30-day free trial just to try it out. So, check that out. But it’s literally an app that helps you create systems in your business.

James: Awesome. Because that’s the thing, once you start creating those systems, and once you can get other people creating those systems, then you’re really leveraging your time and it makes it a whole lot easier.

Eric: Yeah, sure. I lost track of where we’re supposed to be, I’m not going to lie. I warned you about my tangents man, I’ll just go.

James: No, no, it’s good. We’re covering some awesome ground. So, how do you see people differentiating themselves today in a fiercely competitive industry?

Eric: So, I thought about this question and I guess I just kind of looked up your skirt. James did send me these questions in advance, I’ve had some time to think about. I think people get caught up with chasing trends and it’s so irritating because you see it all the time in whatever publication, whatever magazine, whatever online resource of the newest trend, the newest trend, capitalize on this trend. But the people who are killing it are the people who don’t look at trends, they are the trend setters. They’re the ones that have this idea and James you alluded to it earlier when we were talking before the recording. You said there’s this guy who decided to put a doughnut on top of a milkshake and, all of a sudden, he’s king of the world.

He didn’t go to like eater.com or to thrillist.com, I don’t know what you got out in Australia, but he didn’t get that idea from following trends. He had an idea and he was crazy enough to try it out, that’s his unique selling proposition. That’s what separated him from everyone else that has a burger shop or whatever his core is. But you need that unique selling proposition that you can’t get anywhere else.

James: That’s exactly it and I think that the big thing was that they were sitting there trying to think of new ideas for the menu. And too many people just think, “Well, you know, the menu’s the menu. What can we do?” These guys were actually trying to come up with different ideas. People don’t do that, they’re not asking the right questions and yeah, I think it makes a bit difference. If you’re asking the right questions, if you’re actually looking at the kind of things, yeah. That was Aki Daikos from Food Craft Espresso and he came up with a Nutella doughnut milkshake, which is completely awesome. I went and tried one. Yeah, I wouldn’t have one every day but they look amazing. They look amazing and like this is part of the product, it’s an Instagram product. Just looks amazing.

Eric: Yeah, for sure. To get your stuff up, Instagram is huge. But, sorry another tangent, I’ll stop.

James: No, no, no, that’s cool. You’ve mentioned here a unique selling proposition, too many people they don’t have a unique selling proposition. “We’re an Indian restaurant, we cook Indian restaurant authentically.” Pretty sure you just described every Indian restaurant, and there’s about a million of them in the world.

Eric: Yeah. But if you’re in a city like Sydney, for example, you can’t just open Indian restaurant and be unique, because there’s probably five other Indian restaurants in a 10-mile radius. You really need to focus down on a dish that you’re known for, something that will, maybe a fusion dish, something that you create, something that you can’t get anywhere else that separates to you. To learn more, a great book is called the Lean Startup, and that’s written by Eric Ries. Not sure how to spell the last name, but I think he kind of coined the term ‘unique selling proposition’ and I think everybody who opens a restaurant needs to read that book, A Lean Startup.

I would say 99 percent of restaurants are lean in the beginning. It’s basically just putting that concept out there, putting into market whatever it is, and then, you know, you’re not going to knock it out of the park every time. You need to be willing to make those little changes to listen to the feedback of your guests because, at the end of the day, that’s really what matters. And make the little changes so you can grow with time and to evolve as a restaurant or a company or whatever it is. But that’s a great book to learn more about unique selling propositions.

James: Absolutely. And the interesting thing is that, you know, restaurants are designed for this innovation. That’s what the special board is for. Put something up there. If people order it, if people get really excited about it then you’ve done something good. If no one orders it, then it hasn’t cost you anything, move on and try something else. But I don’t think enough people are being aggressive enough with what they put on their specials board.

Eric: Yeah, I mean, one last thing as far as what differentiating things, unique selling propositions. I think too often people get away from the core of the restaurant industry and this is you’re here to be hospitable, you’re here to serve. The core of the restaurant is to restore, not just to restore energies but to restore souls, right? You have to be good to people, not just your guests but the people that work for you. And if you’re just a good person, it’s the law of attraction. The more good you put it, the more shit you give, you know? Just giving a shit in general, it can cure those who take care of you. It will come back around in the long run and you can’t forget that core of hospitality and being a genuine person who genuinely just cares about those people you’re touching every day. And I think that’s probably the most important impactful to separate you, because you get into this industry, you open this restaurant, and you get burnt out. Sometimes that hospitality fades away. You just go through the motions. You have to remember that those one on one connections, those relationships and caring is what’s real and what’s going to get you and carry you in the long run, for sure.

James: One of the things that I find interesting, and that we find with a lot of restaurants is that if you can’t cook, if you’re not a chef, then you’re front of house and some people just aren’t front of house people. And you always wonder, you know, how do you treat people in the restaurant? I don’t think that that’s probably the way that they want to be treated. I don’t think that people would be coming back, because you’ve got to be hospitable. It’s the name of the industry, it’s part of the core of what we do. And if you’re not a people person then you shouldn’t be front of house.

Eric: For sure. That’s another thing you can do to protect yourself is just really, yeah, it’s so hard to get people in your restaurant to work for you, you’ll just hire a heartbeat or a pulse just to get somebody to work for you. But you’re not doing yourself any favours. You really have to look at the bigger picture and really be selective. And you can give people a chance, but if they’re not working out, get them out. You really just need to set that bar high and it’s going to be hard. I mean, I’m not delusional. It’s hard to get solid people working for you and it’s not going to be easy, but don’t cut corners. Because you’re going to pay the price in the long run.

James: Exactly, yup. And it is tough, because it’s a high turnover industry but, yeah, one of the things that we always try is to hire slow, fire quickly. Because having the wrong person in the team, that can be a nightmare.

Eric: Yeah, for sure. That’s definitely come up a few times in the show. It’s like they call it skunking, people call it skunking where basically you get that one person who’s not right, who has that wrong attitude and they just start infecting everyone around them. It just brings the team down, you have to get that stuff out as soon as it gets – like you said, hire quick, fire fast. Get them out of there, they’re going to bring the whole ship down.

James: Yup, definitely. So, what do you see the three big challenges for the industry as a whole?

Eric: Getting that initial capital, there’s this huge overhead involved, the brick and mortar. Getting that initial capital is just tough. Finding the right people, we kind of already touched on this. Just getting the right people in place, it’s hard but, in the long run, having those right people in the right seats on the bus just will get you so much further. And then getting burnt out. I mean, this is hard work. It’s going to test you. You’re going to be really put up against it and you can lose that fire, you can lose that thing that really drove you in the first place to try to swallow such a hard challenge. It’s not easy to open a restaurant, people undermine it. But if you get burnt up, if you lose that fire, it’s only going to get more difficult. That fire is what’s going to keep you going. And over time you’re just going to start to not give a shit. And as soon as you stop giving a shit, it’s game over. Pardon my language, sorry.

James: No, no, no, you’ve got to bring your passion to the business. This is one of the fundamental questions that I ask restaurant owners all the time, “If you don’t want to come to work, then why would your staff?”

Eric: Yeah, for sure. I think that’s why, to put emphasis again on systems, processes, procedures, really what you’re doing is a lot of work to build to fill those out. It’s stressful, it’s not easy work when you’re trying to run the restaurant and systematize your business, but what you’re doing essentially is you’re letting those systems and processes take the brunt of the force. They’re absorbing all that stressful little crap that you have to do every day, so you can do the things that you love, so you can keep that fire going, so you can keep that desire, that drive. You can do the things you love so you can show up every day. And I can’t out enough emphasis on that. It’s probably one of the most powerful things I’ve learned doing these interviews.

James: Yup, yup. So, one of the things that I really love about Restaurant Unstoppable is the book list. What are the three most common books that people recommend?

Eric: So, starting from the top, hands down by a landslide, it’s not even a competition. As far as most recommended books, it’s Danny Meyer, Setting the Table. That’s a great book as far as culture goes and just setting up the core, the structure, the foundation of what you need, the mentality of what you need, how to treat people, how to treat your guests, how to enlighten hospitality. It comes back to just treating people well. The better you treat all who you touch, it comes back to serve you. It’s just a great book to kind of get that mindset, that mentality of what it will take to get successful. Definitely number one most recommended book, Danny Meyer, Setting the Table.

Number two most recommended is the E-Myth, which stands for entrepreneurial myth. If you want to learn more about how powerful systems, processes, procedures can be, operations manuals, setting up a business structure, that’s like the go to book. Basically, what you’ll get after reading that book is just how to structure your business. What the E-Myth means is basically everyone things that they can – say you’re working at a restaurant and you think you can do the job better because you’re a better cook, you have better skills in the kitchen. You’re like, “I’m going to open my own restaurant because I’m so talented and I’m so gifted.” Then you open your own restaurant and you’re like, “Crap, I have no idea what I’m doing. There’s so much stuff I didn’t consider.” The E-Myth kind of helps you work through that to build that structure so you have the operations side of running a business, and it’s really dumbed down. I mean, I figured it out. So, if I could understand what was going on, you can. That’s number two.

And the third book, which is kind of a series of books that’s been mentioned a few times, is A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to on a series of book. So, that is the beginning how they all start, A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to – my screen just went to sleep, this is bad timing. There we go: building a better business, being a better leader, and managing ourselves. So, it’s a great business book. It’s a great leadership book. It’s a great personal growth book. These are three separate books.  Ari Weinzweig is the author of these books and he’s a co-founder of Zingermans which started as a delicatessen or deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the States. And they’ve grown laterally just to have all these different businesses and they’re just flourishing, I think they’re doing – at one point I heard 9 million sales but now it’s probably closer to like 15 million. They have a training program, they do it all, coffee shop, bakery, but they grew laterally. That’s really interesting. I’ll go all day. There’s one more, sorry.

James: No, go for it.

Eric: There’s another which is just kind of a management book and how to treat your people, how to manage situations which is all the time.

James: Awesome. So, I’ve to get Setting the Table to read. I haven’t heard of the Lapsed Anarchist’s, I might get a copy of those ones and have a look. Of course, the E-Myth is an amazing book.

Eric: Yeah, you can find all these book, right? Go to the show notes of this page, but there’s also more books. I think there’s over 100 books now on this list.

James: Yeah, I’ll include a link there, yeah.

Eric: Help out James, go to his show notes, find these books there I’m sure he’ll have them, use his links. Then if there are more books you can check out Restaurant Unstoppable for all those other recommendations.

James: Yup. Now, the big question. What sort of restaurant do you want to open?

Eric: That’s a good question. The more I learn, the more my vision of where I want to be changes and what I learn about successful people in this industry, they build their wealth in general off of the dreams and passions of other people. So, it isn’t a question of what kind of restaurant I want to open. It’s more of a question of how I can help other people achieve their dreams and how I help them open their restaurants. Because it’s when you help other people and help them achieve what they want, you give them the tools, the mindset, or the resources, the skills to achieve their dreams, that’s when you’re going to be ultimately successful. At the end of the day, it’s about making people happy. Not just your guests, but everyone you touch.

You can make so many people happy by helping them achieve their dreams, you know. One thing I noticed, I love the touch of the casual setting or a comfort food, but I haven’t seen many people really doing a hybrid of fast casual, casual dining where you give people the option to go have that atmosphere where you come in and you go down like the assembly line where you build out their meal. But hey, if you want to stay here we’ll give you a server, we’ll bring you your drinks, we’ll give you that casual dining atmosphere where you’re not sitting on a hard table or a hard seat and trying to put you through the system. Why not give them the best of both worlds? I think that’d be really cool.

James: Sounds good. Yeah, pretty much I think it’s an awesome interview. There’s lots of gold in there, lots of great ideas. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with talking with so many successful restaurant owners. So, if people want to listen to more of the podcast, where should they go?

Eric: You can head out to RestaurantUnstoppable.com, I think the last episode was 186. So, almost 200 episodes, iTunes obviously, Stitcher radio, just search ‘restaurant podcast’ if you’re in the States and, I’m proud of this, number one search result on Google. So, it’ll make it easy for you guys to find. I’m out there, shoot me an email [email protected]. That’s Eric with a ‘c’. I always love connecting with people, always love connecting other people with other people. So, yeah, that’s how you can connect.

James: Awesome. Thanks, buddy.

Eric: No problem, cheers. Thank you so much for this opportunity.

James: Wow. Isn’t Eric just awesome? He’s one of the most positive people that I know, and I just love the way that he goes out. Such a great approach to the way that he runs his podcast. Listen to all of the great restaurant owners out there and, on top of that, a really big focus on reading. I think that that’s something that all restaurant needs to be doing a little bit more of is going out and reading books. I’ll put in the show notes a link to Eric’s book list and I think have a look at it. And if you haven’t read a book for a while, maybe try and get one or maybe an audio book. Listen to it in the car. Obviously, after you’ve listened to Marketing4Restaurants, Secret Sauce. But yeah, start thinking about what books it is that you’re going to be reading.

So, lastly, have a think about how your websites going. We are about to be releasing some really interesting data that we’ve got out team of data analysts working on. We’ve got data from over 2 million websites visits to restaurant websites, which it’s probably one of the largest pools of marketing data in the world. So, we’re trawling through that and we’re trying to find some of the interesting things that are working for restaurants. But the amazing thing is just how many people are going to restaurant websites these days. It is a critical part and time and time and time again, we see people say, “I don’t need a restaurant website,” and it’s like, “Well, maybe you do because the people up the road, they’ve got a website I reckon it’s probably generating a couple thousands visits a month. Maybe that’s why they’re busier than you.” So, have a look at it.

Of course, we’ve spent a lot of money being able to build industry leading websites at a price that makes sense for restaurant owners, because we know that if it’s going to cost $20,000 to build a restaurant website you’re never going to receive that return on investment. So, we’ve got packages starting as low as $495 Aussie, so converts into your local currency, to be able to help you to start get online and start finding those customers. Because people are going online and if they’re not finding your website, then they’re going to be finding someone else’s. So, have a look at it, see if your website needs to be having a bit of an update. If you’ve got any questions, obviously just hit the team up. We’ve got live chat available and lots of people send us emails every day and one of the marketing team will get back to you and see how we can help you find new customers and turn them into repeat customers. That’s it, have an outstanding day. Bye.

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